Linky Friday #15



[W1] Paris… at the turn of the 20th century.

[W2] Maybe we can’t count on selling coal to China if they’re going with nuclear.

[W3] Can the US replicate the German economic model? Or will we beat the Chinese with robots?

[W4] A German couple is fighting for political asylum because returning to Germany means they can’t homeschool. Hopefully, this is a German thing we will never replicate.


[L1] Parenting has become a vehicle for parents’ self-expression.

[L2] Jonathan Mahler explains why football won’t end up like boxing.

[L3] Here is an interesting map of where NFL team fans are, using Facebook data. Related, an animated recap of the NFL season.


[H1] This is a neat demonstration: A simulation of the sensation of giving birth, so men can find out what it feels like.

[H2] Slate investigates the fluoride-IQ connection. Also, the whooping cough vaccine does work.

[H3] Companies are dropping spousal health coverage to cut costs. I actually had one of those, where as soon as I could get insurance through my employer, Clancy had to dump me from hers.


[A1] There is an ongoing war between DMV’s and people who want dirty acronyms on their license plates.

[A2] Sometimes, auto insurance rates aren’t actually based on how you drive. As some of you may recall, back when we moved northwest, some “problem” on our credit our rates to spike up 33%. Our credit ratings at the time were both above 700. To this day, we don’t know what the problem was. It disappeared when we moved to Arapaho.

[A3] Britain appears to be getting a grip on speeding.


[E1] As discussed before, I am a fan of napping at work. Err, employer-sanctioned napping, I mean. Here’s a desk for it.

[E2] From US News, a look at our complicated relationship with the minimum wage. From the WSJ, how the minimum wage hurts young workers. Also, the minimum wage’s sexist roots. (No, that latter point isn’t a particularly good argument against raising the minimum wage, but it’s interesting all the same.)

[E3] The science and economics of chain restaurants.

[E4] Wind subsidies are threatening nuclear power plants. Also, exploring solar’s hazardous waste. Maybe the answer will be… clean coal?

[E5] I have posted favorably on moveable houses and moveable hotels. How about… moveable cities.


[T1] Using cell phones to track traffic and creating weather stations. But maybe we’re relying too much on Big Data? There could be a danger if smartphones can tell people how we feel.

[T2] Microsoft tried to go non-transferrable with its Office 2013 licenses, before changing its mind. The belief that one of these days they are going to come up with some way to invalidate ownership of their software is one of the things pushing me towards Linux and OpenOffice/LibreOffice.

[T3] Is the future of tech commercials negative campaigning?

[T4] Tablets still have a long way to go.

[T5] A part of me thinks that a possible return of serialized novels would become really cool. The other part of me likes to buy (and consume) in bulk anyway. It does seem to me that ebooks ought to allow for more experimentation, though.

[T6] More attempts to retire the password.

[T7] A heartwarming use for 3D printers: giving a fingerless kid a chance to play catch.

Reader Additions:

[W5] The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. [H1] Old Phyllis Diller joke: Hey guys… want to know what it feels like to give birth? Grab your lower lip — AND PULL IT OVER YOUR HEAD.

  2. W2: If it generates electricity, China is buying lots of it. If you’re going to try to lift 600M peasants out of poverty, you require incredible amounts of electricity. No one has discovered a way to have a middle-class as part of a large economy that doesn’t consume electricity on a very large scale. If Montana and Wyoming can find someone on the West Coast that will let them build large coal terminals, they can sell China coal.

  3. W3: The German model is a package deal. Lots of people want to pick out one piece of it: the vocational training, or the personal savings rate, or the… you name it. But it’s all of the pieces, with a focus on valuing labor highly, that fit together.

    • A lot of times pieces fit together because of, in to produce, culture. Can we create an equally effective German system without being Germans?

      • Off the top of my head, no. I think that the German system rests on one important piece of culture: they value the craftsmen (using the term broadly) who work for the company more than they value the capitalists who own the company. The US has the opposite orientation, darned near worshiping successful owners (eg, the Donald Trump phenomenon). To exaggerate the point: in Germany, owners are regarded as a necessary evil; in the US, labor is the necessary evil.

        There are lots of ways to attempt to explain the difference that go back a considerable ways. As de Tocqueville noted, Americans all want to be rich. Craftsmen live comfortable middle-class lives; owners get rich. Or you can claim that during the period where Germany was figuring out the basis for their current system, the US was characterized by a struggle over whether one person could own another, and that any male who wasn’t owned could — literally — walk west a few hundred miles and claim 160 acres of land free and clear. Both Marx and Bismarck believed that the capitalists would overreach; Marx thought it would lead to revolution, Bismarck that the state could keep the owners reigned in and distribute the wealth sufficiently to avoid that.

  4. W1: Awesome

    W4: I am not sure where I stand on this. In general I want immigration to be easier so they should get in. However, I am not a pro-homeschooling kind of guy. It is not the worst thing in the world but I am skeptical. “Unschooling” also raises my ire.

    A1: Free Speech dictates that the people should win, not the DMV but I wish people were more eloquent with their free speech.

    E2: I don’t buy the argument that the minimum wage hurts young workers because it denies them experience. That is bullshit pure and simple and an absolute right-wing talking point. There was a congressperson who talked about how her first job paid around 2.54 an hour and made the young worker moronic talking point. Someone adjust her wage for inflation and in today’s money, she would be making over 12 dollars an hour.

    • E2: My first three jobs paid less than the current minimum wage even adjusting for inflation (and despite the fact that two paid more than the minimum wage at the time. I consider it good for young people to hold jobs and so if raising the minimum wage reduces those jobs I would consider it a bad thing. Research is mixed in whether that it the case, though. I don’t know that raising it to 9 would be enough to create a problem in that regard, though. I also don’t know to what extent maybe a low minimum wage itself discourages young people to get jobs because it’s not worth it. My guess is the effect there is pretty marginal, but it’s an interesting question.

      • My first three jobs paid less than the current minimum wage even adjusting for inflation (and despite the fact that two paid more than the minimum wage at the time.

        Which implies that minimum wage has more than kept pace with inflation, which I don’t think is the case. Color me puzzled.

        • I think this depends entirely on what time period you’relooking at. Since the 90’s is has outdone inflation. Go back much further, iit hasn’t.

      • For economists perhaps, my stance is from reading stories about poor adults who got more money because of a higher minimum wage is that it helps them. This is something I care about more than teenagers finding work. Teenagers should be able to concentrate on their schooling and studies and do fun things with their free time. I don’t sentimentalize teenage work.

        There is more than enough money and resources in the world to ensure that everyone or almost everyone has enough food, water, shelter, clothing, and entertainment. What there is not enough of is political will to make this so. Instead we just have tut-tut moralizing and praise of job creators:

        Stuff like this article is gross. I am not anti-Capitalist. I don’t think everyone should have their income capped at 100,000 a year or so and that we should all live like communal hippies*. I like nice clothing, good and expensive restaurants, comfortable to fancy hotels (I am not a hostel/camper person), etc. But the sheer wealth in the story above is sickening when there are people who really suffer and are homeless. This was also reflected in two recent stories in the NY Times:

        1. More people needed homeless shelters than ever in New York City this year than ever.

        2. There are more and more apartment buildings in NYC that are empty for most of the year because their occupiers/dwellers are international and only use them for a small portion of the year.

        The two articles above create an immorality to me. So does the statement in the WSJ article about young people with private jets being hedonist in Singapore.

        *I do know people who think this we should all live like this. I think they are nuts.

        • Very, very few minimum wage workers are actually self-supporting adults, most that are self-supporting adults are very young, and few will make minimum wage for very long . The conversation often focuses on teenagers because those are the people who take the jobs: people just starting out. I actually think that one of the reasons that skeptics of the minimum wage focus on teenagers is to hammer in that fact. Raising the minimum wage to help the minority of minimum wage workers that are self-supporting is an extremely inefficient way to go about it (which is why we shifted from minimum wage to the EITC as a way to help them, because then we can target it).

          Anyway, the main point of the pushback is that the minimum wage will make job-growth harder because it will make it more expensive for people to hire people. Whomever gets minimum wage jobs is most likely to have a harder time finding jobs, if this is true. What the WSJ says about teenagers is just as true of the people you’re worried about. I understand the “raising the minimum wage won’t effect unemployment” argument, but don’t understand the “I don’t care about that because it helps people” argument. It doesn’t help people if it makes it harder for them to get jobs.

          I am actually relatively indifferent on raising the minimum wage to $9/hr. I don’t think it’ll actually help people all that much because we’re talking about such small amounts and most of the recipients are not self-supporting anyway, nor hurt them through unemployment. However, raising the minimum wage by two much does have the real potential to cause harm. This debate doesn’t matter mostly because the minimum wage is so low.

          Regarding sentimentalizing work, I suppose I am guilty. I think everybody should work some of these jobs at some point in their life.

          • “Anyway, the main point of the pushback is that the minimum wage will make job-growth harder because it will make it more expensive for people to hire people.”

            I don’t buy this. The Papa John’s CEO also said that Obamacare would require him to raise the price of pizza by a mere 15 to 50 cents and/or switch people to part time and/or let go of people.

            He never considered that plenty of people might pay that paltry extra so workers can get healthcare. The threat was also cowardly. The asshole was simply playing a cynical ploy because he does not want to pay for healthcare costs but is also against universal healthcare.

          • That it will make it more expensive to hire people isn’t a philosophical question. It’s true. The only question is whether they will eat the cost, pass it on to consumers, or lay people off.

            Now, as to whether or not it will make job growth harder, I don’t think it’ll have much effect because we’re still talking about such small amounts. But if we talk about raising the minimum wage enough, I don’t see how it doesn’t become an issue.

            Maybe raising the price of pizza is a big deal and maybe it isn’t. On the one hand, an extra fifty cents a pizza won’t break the bank. On the other hand, it takes us right back to the question of who is making minimum wage. I have less a problem with paying more if it’s people trying to support their families or whatever than if it is teenagers or young people working their first job on the way to bigger and better things.

            If the beneficiaries are disproportionately people less likely to need the money, and the costs being passed on are disproportionately to people who are strapped (not the case with Papa John’s, but maybe McDonald’s), it could be a bust by even liberal standards.

            And this whole discussion overlooks the EITC, which is a way we can make sure that money goes to people who need it and not to people who don’t need it.

        • There is more than enough money and resources in the world to ensure that everyone or almost everyone has enough food, water, shelter, clothing, and entertainment. What there is not enough of is political will to make this so. Instead

          The problem with this type of argument is that it assumes that if we were to develop the political will to create a re-ordering of the distribution of wealth so that everyone had the food, water, shelter, clothing that they need, that we could in fact figure out how to do so without severely disrupting the production necessary to have that much wealth.

          So far in human history, that achievement has eluded us.

          • Perhaps you are right and I said above I am not anti-Capitalist or anti-nice things. I do believe that Capitalism can incentivize people to work harder. If I stay in the Bay Area and start a family, I would like to move to Mill Valley. That is not cheap. If I move back to New York and start a family, I’d probably move up to a comparable town in Westchester like Dobbs Ferry.

            However that does not change the fact that there is something kind of gross about the way those kids were acting in the article? There is a big ethical and moral difference between wanting a nice house in Mill Valley and nice clothing (but working for it) vs. having a private jet at 20-something and doing nothing but partying.

            I am not an ascetic. There is nothing wrong with partying and even going all out every once in a while but the descriptions in that article really took the cake.

          • ND,

            That said, I don’t want to leave the impression that I think any redistributive rules whatsoever will totally wreck the wealth production system. Capitalists will grumble and complain, but if their own best bet is still within that system they’ll stick around and work within it. They can be pushed out if we try to command too much of their wealth, but there is some flex in there.

    • Looks like Heisenberg might have switched products, from meth to maple.

    • After notifying the Federation’s leaders and returning with them to examine the stockpile, they unscrewed the cap on a full barrel. The liquid inside was not goopy, brown, or redolent with the wintry scent of vanilla, caramel, and childhood; it was thin, clear, and odorless. It was water.

      I hope no children were harmed.

      • Well, it’s not the first time a Federation enterprise captained by a Francophone socialist ruined childhood nostalgia.

  5. Regarding W3, Germany’s per-capita GDP is 20% below the US’s. You’d think that would be the sort of thing that might be worth mentioning in an article about whether we should try to emulate Germany’s economy.

    • Here are some other numbers:

      Unemployment rate: Germany 5.4%, US 7.95%
      Infant mortality: Germany 3.71/1000, US 6.81/1000
      Life expectancy: Germany 79.85, US 77.97
      Murder rate: Germany .8/100,000, US 4.2/100,000

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